ALLIGATORS

250 MILLION YEARS AGO

THE ALLIGATOR'S FIRST ANCESTORS, PRIMATIVE REPTILES CALLED THE CODONTIANS,EVOLVE.

80 MILLION YEARS AGO

DEINOSCUCHUS, DIRECT FORERUNNER OF CROCODILIANS ( ALLIGATORS, CROCODILES, CAIMANS AND GHAVIALS), EVOLVES. POSSIBLY 50 FEET LONG AND ABLE TO PREY ON LARGE DINOSUARS.

66 MILLION YEARS AGO

DINOSAURS DIE OUT; CROCODILIANS AND TURTLES SURVIVE.

15-25 MILLION YEARS AGO

ALLIGATOR OLSENI, THE DIRECT ANCESTOR OF THE MODERN ALLIGATOR (ALLIGATOR MISSISSIPPIENSIS) OCCURS IN FLORIDA.

5 MILLION YEARS AGO

ALLIGATOR MISSISSIPPIENSIS EVOLVES.

LATE 1880s

COMMERCIAL EXPLOITATION OF ALLIGATORS BEGIN IN FLORIDA.

1943

THE FIRST ALLIGATOR REGULATION (4-FOOT MINIMUM SIZE LIMIT) IS ENACTED.

1954

A 6-FOOT MINIMUM SIZE IS IMPOSED.

1962

THE LEGAL ALLIGATOR HARVEST IS CLOSED.

1967

WITH POPULATIONS DOWN TO PERHAPS 200,000, ALLIGATORS ARE INCLUDED ON THE FIRST FEDERAL LIST OF ENDANGERED SPECIES, BUT THAT DOESN'T STOP POACHERS.

1970

A NATIONAL NETWORK OF POACHERS CONTINUE, SO INTERSTATE SHIPMENT OF ALLIGATORS (TAKEN AGAINST STATE LAWS) IS OUTLAWED.

1974

ALLIGATORS ARE LISTED AS THREATENED ON FLORIDA'S LIST OF PROTECTED SPECIES.

1977

ALLIGATORS ARE RECLASSIFIED AS A THREATENED SPECIES ON THE FEDERAL LIST.

1979

ALLIGATORS ARE RECLASSIFIED AS A SPECIES OF SPECIAL CONCERN ON THE STATE LIST.

1985

ALLIGATORS ARE RECLASSIFIED AS "THREATENED DUE TO SIMILARITY OF APPEARANCE."

THE SPECIES IS NO LONGER THREATENED, BUT BECAUSE OF PRODUCTS MADE FROM ENDANGERED CROCODILIANS, THE ALLIGATOR REMAINS ON THE LIST.

1988

PUBLIC ALLIGATOR HARVESTING BEGINS IN FLORIDA.



Many adults create ‘gator holes’ which are valuable to other animals in their habitat. Using its mouth and claws the gator uproots vegetation and digs out a depression that fills with water in the wet season and retains water throughout the dry season providing a valuable water supply to fish, insects, crustaceans, snakes, turtles, birds, and other animals.

Although alligators don't hibernate they do become dormant in periods of cold weather. The gator hole can be extended under the bank of a waterway and enlarged so that the inner chamber is above the water level. Here the alligator can spend the winter in relative safety. In warmer years and habitats alligators can remain active all year round.

There was a time when reptiles, including dinosaurs, dominated the earth. Crocodilians (alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gharials) are the sole survivors from the ruling age of reptiles, dating back to the Mesozoic era. They still have long bodies, big mouths full of sharp teeth and huge tails. In their environment, they are the top-ranked predators in the food chain.

Early Spanish explorers who encountered the large, lizard-like reptiles in the southeastern United States named them "el lagarto," meaning lizard. Later, the English settlers called them "allagarto," paving the way for today's term of "alligator."



Alligator Holes

One type of habitat found within a sawgrass marsh is the alligator hole. These holes or depressions in the limestone may be the size of bathtubs or as big as swimming pools. As the dry down progresses, these pools hold water longer than the surrounding sawgrass marsh, and become places of tremendous activity!

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A willowhead often forms around a gator hole. Alligators deepen their holes, ripping out vegetation and moving mud toward the edges, creating a mudbank bed for willows to grow in. During the rainy season, animals easily move back and forth between the gator hole and the sawgrass marsh habitats.

With the advancing dry season, as the water levels go down, much of the Everglades wildlife begins to concentrate in and around these gator holes and in the sloughs, where water is still available. Fishes and turtles swim in. Egrets, herons, endangered wood storks and other wading birds fly in to feed on the heavy concentrations of fishes. Deer, raccoons, bobcats, and other mammals stop by for a drink.



CROCODILES   American Crocodile



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ALLIGATORS  
American Alligator
Alligator mississippiensis

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Wood Stork

Characteristics for Wading Birds